Society

Jay Pharoah Speaks Out About Leaving "SNL"

| by Michael Doherty

Actor and comedian Jay Pharoah has opened up about his experiences after leaving NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

In an April 13 interview with Hot 97's "Ebro in the Morning," Pharoah, 29, said that he felt like the sketch comedy show wasn't using his skills as much as it could have, Us Weekly reports. During his tenure on the show, Pharoah impersonated celebrities from Kanye West to former President Barack Obama.

"You go where you're appreciated," said Pharoah. "If you have multiple people on the cast saying things like, 'You're so talented and you’re able and they don’t use you, it's unfair and it’s making us feel bad because they don't use you and you're a talent...' They put people into boxes, and whatever they want you to do, they expect you to do. And I'm fiery. I'm not a yes n****."

According to Pharoah, he was asked to do many of the impressions of black people on the show. He said that his Obama impression, which he became known for, had been especially underused in the past year, according to Variety.

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"If you really noticed, for the last year and a half, they didn’t do any Obama sketches at all. I was like, 'Just let me do my character, and we'll be fine.' They didn't want to do that," he said. "No disrespect to them, but I kind of feel like they ... gave up on the Obama thing ... I think it was just a whatever attitude."

He also said he wasn't afraid to turn down the show's requests, such as putting on a dress, saying that the reaction from the show was: "What do you mean, you're not doing it?"

Pharoah also said that during his time on "SNL" he had encouraged the show to include more black female comedians, such as Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata. Pharaoh said that "SNL" had nearly fired him when he called for more diversity in the cast, saying that the show was "Wonder Bread -- straight up."

"I was at the audition and me speaking up, they were ready to get rid of me in 2013 when I spoke up," he said. "When I said what I said and it went viral... I almost lost my job."

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Pharoah said that despite his criticism of the show, he still has a good relationship with show creator Lorne Michaels.

"I'm just a little more affirmative than some of the other cast members. A lot of people are scared of Lorne. Lorne, I respect the hell out of him," said Pharoah. "I like Lorne. Ain't no problem with Lorne Michaels ... there ain’t no beef with Lorne."

"We're on good graces and everything," said Pharoah, though he admitted that the relationship had occasionally been on shaky ground.

Pharoah will reportedly play the lead role in "White Famous," a half-hour comedy series that has been picked up by Showtime. The show will reportedly focus on Jamie Foxx's experiences entering the entertainment business, according to Page Six.

"I connected with the material immediately," said Pharoah.

Sources: Variety, Us Weekly, Page Six / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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